Tuesday, July 05, 2011

How To Craft The Perfect Sentence, Part 2


Make The Best Voice Choice.

The best voice choice for most sentences is the active, not passive, voice.

Compare these two sentences:
The romantic poets are treasured by me. (the passive voice)
I treasure the romantic poets. (the active voice)

A ‘passive’ person suggests weakness: one lacking the strength to be direct and active. Much the same is true of the ‘passive’ voice. The passive voice drains many a strong sentence of life and energy.

The reason for this? First, the passive voice employs more words; thus, it lends itself to wordiness. 

Second, the passive voice is by nature indirect; thus, not conducive to forceful, direct statements. 

Third, in the hand of an unskilled writer, the passive voice makes for awkward, confusing sentences; thus, the reader has to reread for clarity.

Compare these two sentences again:

The romantic poets are treasured by me. (the passive voice: 6 words; indirect; awkward and confusing)

I treasure the romantic poets. (the active voice: 5 words; direct; clear)

Strunk, “This is true not only in narrative principally concerned with action, but in writing of any kind. Many a tame sentence of description or exposition can be made lively and emphatic by substituting a transitive in the active voice...”

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